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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Term: Isaac Newton


Isaac Newton: (1643*-1727) Virtually every school child knows the story of how an Apple supposedly fell on Newton’s head, leading him to discover the laws of gravity. High school and college students are familiar with Newton’s laws of physics. However, few today are familiar with the fact that Newton was as interested in both physical and metaphysical sciences. John Michael Greer, in The New Encyclopedia of the Occult, attributes this to scientists of the 18th century and onward thinking that Newton’s occult interests, especially his voluminous writings on alchemy, were an “embarrassment” and dismissed them while biographies ignored this aspect of his life. His alchemical writings were not even published until the late 20th century.

Newton’s work on optics should have given people a clue as to his mystical leanings. Newton came up with a clever experiment that proved that prisms did not color light, as many scholars (including Descartes, Robert Hooke, and Edward Boyle) had thought, but broke it down into component parts. He said that white light broke down into seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. However, anyone looking at the colors created by a prism or a rainbow will see literally thousands of colors that blend into each other. Newton chose seven as the number of colors because of that number’s mystical value: seven days of the week, on the seventh day God rested, the seven planets, the seven heavens, the seven churches, etc.

Today, many Western teachings on color focus on the seven-color system of Newton. Even Eastern ideas have been adapted. For example, although traditional associations of colors to the seven chakras of Indian mysticism are different, in the West, they are usually attributed to the colors and order created by Newton.

* Some give his birth as 1642. During his lifetime, the Western calendar was changed to its modern form, thus moving his birth date to 1643.

Also See: Sir Isaac NewtonNewton, Isaac


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